Bringing in the New Year…….

The bubbles are flowing, the heels are out, the tunes are singing and the sparkles are shimmering…..its new years…a time of year to celebrate what was and to imagine and hope for whats to come…bringing in the new year.

New Years Resolutions have never been something that I have routinely followed. And to be honest…they have always accompanied with them a sense of uncertainty, pressure and exepctation. I mean, what really are these new years resolutions about…a time to set yourself a year long goal, that you have to hold yourself accountable too, regardless of what unexpected life events present themselves to you??

resolution list

I mean isn’t it a little tokenistic???!???

 

When I originally wrote this piece, last year, I asked my partner if he has ever set a New Years Resolution and he reminded me that we actually set one for this year….our goal was to better our lives by getting through our much desired home renos. As we reminisced about this, we both gave out a half hearted, tired, delirious, funny laugh…because in terms of goals…we failed (insert image of my partner in life and love giving the big thumbs down). To be fare, we were probably aiming a little high considering we at the time had a nine year old (now eleven), a sixteen month old (now three)  and a bub due in feb (now two in feb). Instead of reaching our new years resolution..we had our toughest year yet. Adjusting to life with another new bub, job instability, financial pressure….you name it. Don’t get us wrong, when we reflect back on our year, we do so in awe and wonder, firstly at how we survived but mostly at our beautiful babes and how big our hearts have grown to fit them all in.

 

When I was researching for this piece..weblinks such as ’50 new years resolution ideas and how to achieve them’ ‘top 10 healthiest new years resolutions’ ‘epic ways to screw your new years resolutions’ popped up….within these weblinks….well meaning authors make suggestions for your new years resolutions….these range from ‘get into shape’ ‘meet new people’ ‘stop procrastinating’ become more confident’ ‘earn more money’…..Ummmm yes please!!

sparklers

One website defined New Years Resolutions as ‘the perfect opportunity for all those who have failed to start making the changes that they said they would make’…I mean…come on…I can almost imagine an overly authoritarian personality type,  you know the typical representation of a strict rule abiding school principal, standing in front of an assembly of innocent, bewildered students… hands on their hips, glasses on their noses,  and saying these exact words….and yet a new years resolution is meant to be something that we hold ourselves accountable for.

On the more light hearted side of things…another more light website described new years resolutions as ‘similar to a baby, fun to make but hard to maintain’ (insert giggle here).

The New Year year is without a doubt a time where many, including myself, find themselves reflecting on the year/s that has passed by, whilst looking forward to the year that is ahead. The inner nerd in me has ALWAYS loved the freshness that the new year brings. Freshly contacted school books, clean crisp diaries, new schedules and routines, new projects, new people, a new chance….the smell of sweet sweet summer in the air…it does have a sense of rest and refresh about it.

sparkler

So if we do choose to follow this well aged tradition of picking a ‘new years resolution’, how do we go about this in a way that’s going to set us up to feel accomplished, hopeful and well, rather than ridden with self blame and guilt about not achieving what we set out to achieve despite the fact that the stats say that more than half of those who set themselves a resolution are off course six months in.

All in all, A New Years Resolution is a tradition in which we are meant to make a promise, to ourselves to do an act of self improvement…..but, who said that new years resolutions have to be just about improvement of our self or our life…in a way that seems to imply rectification of a fault.

Another way, maybe a more helpful way to look at it, is through a self compassionate lense, which gives you permission to be kind to yourself. Almost like granting yourself a year long permission slip to take care of you, whether that means saying no to a new year resolution, or setting one that feels achievable and realistic.

When goals are specific rather than broad and general, measureable rather than obscure, agreed upon and supported by those around you, realistic given your current circumstances and timely in the sense that you will likely be able to achieve the goals in a given time…. your chance of following through and achieving the goal are much higher.

Or to form a resolution that is values based….working towards something that brings you  a sense of fulfilment.  Could it be..spending more quality time with those you love, reading more about something that inspires you, planning and researching your next travel adventure; big or small…

Or could it be that a resolution that will unintentionally fill us with those wonderful altruistic feelings like gratitude is a resolution with a shifted focus, a focus towards those around us….our partners, our kiddies, our mama village. Bettering the lives of others builds a sense of connectedness, gratitude, optimism, purpose and fulfillment. All states of mind that lead to higher levels of well being….and wouldn’t that be the bees knees of new years resolutions….to feel well, ‘happier’.

 

new years eve cheers

 

So, in keeping with what has been written here..I wish those of you making new years resolutions a sense of fulfillment in achieving what you set out to achieve and those of you who aren’t, I wish you the same sense of fulfillment in the experiences that this year brings, and what you bring to this year.

 

Wishing you all 2018 that is filled with love, resilience and hope.

 

Xx

 

happy new year

 

Fill Your Cup…

Self Compassion, Kindness to Self, Self Care, Taking Time for You, Filling Your Cup…. all terms that we often find ourselves talking about. Whether its that inner voice trying to urge yourself to take five. Or that compassionate guiding voice you hear exit your mouth as you take a friends hand and remind them, they should take five.

hand holding

Self Care is absolutely something that we tackle head on when working with parents, particularly new mums.  And often, when working with mums who are having difficulty with emotional and mental health…self care…is something that is seen to be the first thing we take steps to become normal parts of everyday life, once again.

 

I recall running a postnatal depression and anxiety group, during late pregnancy with my first little love. It was around a five session group, and a significant amount of the time was spent talking about the importance of self care, the barriers to engaging in self care through motherhood, and setting tasks for the mums in the group, to really make self care a priority. Sounds easy right!!!!!! As a therapist yet to experience the emotional and practical demands of motherhood (particularly in the early days, weeks, months……ok YEARS!!!!!) it seemed to make sense, it seemed like a manageable way to ensure that well-being was a priority. I mean how hard could it be to set aside some time for yourself and go watch a movie, go for a walk…..take a shower uninterrupted?!?!?!?!?!?!?!? Cognitively I knew all the tricky parts of making this a reality, but emotionally….Mama Being Frank….I really had no idea.

 

A couple of months ago, I was scrolling through my social media accounts, and I came across a post from The Mindful Mum….’Fill Your Own Cup’ it read…I kept scrolling. A few days later I came across the same post…I kept scrolling. Again I came across the post, I clicked the link and begun to read what was on offer – a free five day online workshop on how to introduce some self care centered activities into the busy life of a mama, ten minutes a day was promised….. my ears pricked. My interest was sparked, both from the mind of a mama who despite knowing the benefits and counseling others on the benefit…personally finding a balance of this, like many areas of parenthood, has been hard…And as a result, at times I have suffered.

 

And so, I chose, for myself and for my followers, and for my clients – past and present, and for my village of mamas…to sign myself up.

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I just want to note, this isn’t a professional review or critique of the program that was offered, or the activities that were introduced…but a personal reflection on my ongoing journey of ‘filling my own cup’. And the lovely mamas at The Mindful Mum, have kindly given me permission to publish a blog post, sharing my experiences of the journey. And like all journeys, everyone’s experience can be different, each taking something so very different from the same moment.

 

As a psychologist we often pair the action of self care with the frame of mind, self compassion. Different in many ways, but difficult for one to function well without the other. This for me, has been particularly true in my experiences as a mum. And were highlighted in my time with Mindful Mum, Fill Your Cup Challenge.

 

The fill your cup challenge was a five-day online workshop which introduced different activities all of which focused on teaching manageable ways of creating change amongst the routines that we move through, each and everyday. These activities aimed to draw energy and care inwards, in an attempt to balance how much energy and care we mamas direct outwards.

cup of tea

I loved the concept behind the idea…building an online community of mamas who were all in need of dedicating more time to self, to reenergize, to rest, to reflect and to be. The challenge was all on line – accessible. Each daily activity was emailed straight to your nominated email – convenient. Each activity only required a small amount of your time each day – timely… The challenge also invited you to join a face book group where you cold post pictures, share experiences, stories and thoughts – supportive.

 

I found each of the activities really enjoyable… once making the time to participate each day. The activities did not require an extensive amount of time. What I felt was really effective was how some of the activities were about reworking parts of our existing routines, in a way that draws energy inwards. And I will absolutely utilize some of these approaches in therapy, and hopefully in my own daily life.

 

What I found most challenging was not the practicality of ‘making time’, as I had predicted…but the mental and emotional battle of ‘deserving time’…or making this self focused time a priority amongst other ‘things’. Some days I didn’t get to the activities, and at the time the reasoning was ‘just too busy, just too tired’.   On the days that I did make the time…it was always an afterthought, following the long list of everything else that had to be done that day, it would occur in the time of the night where you engage in a mental debate as to whether or not to spend time on self, or catch a few extra minutes of sleep.

 

This part of my journey had me thinking…if I can make time to put on one more load of washing, read one more story, send a couple of quick emails, without guilt, without hesitation…why cant I ‘find’ the time to…..care for me.   And what I realised is…without a sense of true sense of compassion towards self, how can I expect, myself to easily prioritize, time for me.

 

Self compassion is a state of mind, a state of looking inwards with a sense of kindness, gentleness and love…just as we look outwards to others that we care for.

 

Through this experience, I also had to catch myself when mama guilt came tapping on my shoulder…maybe it was because I had set myself a goal, or made a commitment, but the mama guilt of ‘failing’ at the challenge, did begin to creep up. Recently I read another blog post titled “This Is What ‘Self-Care’ Really Means, Because It’s Not All Salt Baths and Chocolate Cake”, By Brianna Wiest. Brianna speaks about the worrying notion that ‘Self Care’ has become a trendy topic, suggesting indulgence, rather than a normal way of healthy living.

 

Brianne refers to a quote, which really struck a cord with me

The act of self-care has become yet another thing women are expected to be good at”. Amil Niazi

 

Mama Being Frank…the way in which we choose to take care of ourselves does not feel the important part of this topic…what feels most significant, is the CHOICE in itself. The choice to choose you. Finding a place where emotionally, taking time for you, is just as important, as giving time to others, is what matters.

The awareness that there is some part of who you are and how you are travelling that needs some attention, some time and some care…is what matters.

 

Whether you notice the need for change, as I did, and choose to start by making a commitment to yourself. Or whether you notice the need for change and mindfully start to adjust the internal dialogue that may be holding you back. It all counts, it’s all about making a change, of some degree, to better your state of being.

 

Mama Being Frank…despite what messages we are sent about ‘self care’…there is no right or wrong way to do it. Everyone’s emotional, social and physical needs are met in different ways. For me, as a Mama, front and center in my own journey, and as a Psychologist sharing in those journeys of my clients…. the most important part of all of this, is responding to yourself with kindness, and compassion, the rest should follow, just as you need it to.

 

aqua quote

Parents are Human Too…

 

When I started writing, I was inspired by the idea of sharing my experiences. Truthful tales of what I thought the journey into motherhood would be, and what the honest reality was like. I felt – I wrote, I struggled – I wrote, I learnt – I wrote.  I was imagining myself doing the Carey Bradshow thing, it was great. I was building another road, exploring another passion, fusing my worlds. But then I reached a lull. Was it tiredness? Was it busyness? Was it avoidance?

writing

 

Turns out it was none of the above… rather it was about coming to terms with the change in shape, substance and material of where my journey now is, and what my experiences now are. I guess you could say that I have been through the journey of pregnancy, those early first days and stages of motherhood. The physical, emotional, relational and role changes that pregnancy and early parenthood brings. The fatigue, the hormones, the ups and the downs. The welcoming of a new sibling, the adjustment of becoming mama to two, and all the complexities that this brings. I was fuelled to write about how significant and important it is for mothers and fathers to be aware of and respond tenderly to their ever changing states of well being and mental health.

 

Sure this continues throughout our parenting journey, but when I stopped and actually connected with what was most real for me, now…..I could see that like all journeys, my road has shifted …I am now head deep in toddler hood and ‘parenting’. I am covered top to toe in all it takes to nurture and raise three humans. Little humans who have giant spirits and very clear ideas of who they are and what they want!!!!

I have two very different but equally wonderful toddlers. They are active, curious, passionate, loving, challenging, demanding, kind, determined, creative, emotional, expressive, spirited little beings. And I love them with every ounce of MY being.

sand pic

 

Once again though, I have been confronted with that voice inside my head saying ‘hah, you thought you knew’. And it’s true, to some extent I did and I do. My work heavily involves helping parents navigate and understand what the relational and emotional needs of children are. What are these mystical little beings trying to tell us through their behaviour, through their play, through their choice of words or actions? What I did not come close to anticipating was the emotion I would feel, both beautiful lovely emotion, and, hard uncomfortable emotion.  And how this would sometimes impede on my thoughts…..and my actions.

I value honesty, authenticity and realness. And if I’m going to be ‘Mama Being Frank’, there has been so many times, where I have felt like a fraud. How can I as a professionally trained and qualified expert in the field, be standing here with my own little one, bursting with emotion and questioning where it all went wrong. What did I miss? What am I doing wrong? Is my baby ok? Quick!!!!! Where are my text books?!?!?!?!?!?!?

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The defiant ‘no’s’, the determined bargaining, the strong willed boundary pushing….these are not the moments where I begin to self doubt, to question, to criticize myself. It’s the moments where my little loves experience the level of emotional upset that fires up my need to help them, to fix things, to make it all ok. The moments where they are spilling over with frustration, hurt, tiredness, excitement, worry and overwhelming emotion. The moments that leave me feeling frustrated, depleted, helpless and sometimes desperate for answers. These are the moments that I (maybe naively) had a very different expectation about.

What I mean is, logically and rationally I know that these behaviours, the expression of emotion through behaviour….is normal. And that when our babes developing brains are flooded with emotion, their growing ability to think, problem solve and act with consideration is subdued.

And when in these moments of responding to my babes emotions…I…Emotionally, as a Mama, as a HUMAN, can be vulnerable to moving straight too…….WORST CASE SCENARIO!!!! Because its true, us super hero mamas…are actually human too….and our brain does just that of our babes. Yes we have had more time to learn different ways of regulating this. But add on top of emotions the fatigue, hormones, responsibilities, adulting, mama guilt and the continuous juggle of all things parenting… its reasonable to expect that we cant possibly be on top of our game ALL OF THE TIME.

So, in actual fact, isn’t it reasonable that sometimes, we too react based on emotion, in a way that may not be ideal????? Even those of us who have trained and now practice as professionals with expertise in just this!!!!!!

Breathe deep mama, this emotional desire to ‘do it right’, comes from a place of love, a place of intention that wants to be that perfect parent for your child.  And that is a beautiful place.

breathe flowers

Some of the time I respond in the way I hope for, the way that builds my little ones up to be emotionally resilient, kind, connected little beings. Responding as the adult, who is stronger, wiser, kinder (Circle of Security). But at other times, my own emotions get in the way. And I don’t respond as the parent I strive to be… Resulting in feelings of guilt, thoughts of criticism, and catastrophic long analysis about of how it all played out.

Which leads me to the fuel behind this blog, and possibly a shift in my blogging journey moving forward…even in our most authentic, loving, conscious attempts to be the parent who is understanding, emotionally in tune, empathetic…. mistakes happen. We as parents are living, feeling beings. Parenting is hard. It’s an emotionally charged journey that is fueled with universal judgment and SELF-judgment. Perfection is not possible. Being a good enough parent is… One who holds their child’s well being and happiness close to their heart, one who is able and willing to reflect on their mistakes, and one who takes the time to repair their relationship with their little one, when things do become unstuck.

embrace

 

The ‘Circle of Security’ talks about a concept called repair…an opportunity, when our emotions as parents (even those of us who are trained in the psychology of children, attachment, parenting and family), get in the way of our responding. Repair encourages us to respond in a way that will help our children trust that our relationship will almost always set things right. And when these moments of repair are available, how powerful they can be. There is nothing more human, more real than recognizing where we have gone wrong, and making the effort to reach out, and ensure that the person on the receiving end is ok. And what a wonderful moment of teaching this can be. So when those familiar mama guilt’s spark, reassure yourself, there is no such thing as a perfect parent, ‘I can repair’.

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